Apple TV 5 wish list: 4K and HDR support

Screens aren't just getting denser, they're getting deeper — and that means 4K and HDR are moving from nice-to-have to must-have.

The current Apple TV tops out at 1080p. It's a rock-solid 60 frames-per-second (fps) 1080p, but it's still 1080p. Likewise, it only supports the sRGB color standard. Wouldn't it be great, though, if the next-generation Apple TV 5 could do more — if it could handle 4K and DCI-P3?

Going dense, going deep

Apple TV 4 debuted with an Apple A8 processor. It was powerful for its time, driving iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 2014, but 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps in sRGB was as much and as fast as it could go. There's no software update in the world that can change that, which is why this is an item on my Apple TV 5 wish list and not on my tvos-11 wish list.

Yet Apple already makes products that do go to 4K and DCI-P3 … and beyond. The 2014 iMacs hit 5K and the 2015 iMac added a smaller 4K version and DCI-P3. iOS 10 and macOS Sierra both added pervasive support for not only DCI-P3, but even Rec. 2020, the next generation, even wider gamut color profile.

So, if Apple's already supporting 5K and planning support for Rec. 2020, why doesn't Apple TV support 4K and DCI-P3?

Back to that Apple A8 processor and the price point Apple was trying to hit in 2015 — $149 on the lowest end.

Meanwhile, 4K televisions with high dynamic range (HDR) have already hit the market, albeit the high end of the market.

(If you don't think HDR is as important as 4K, experts will tell you a 1080p movie in HDR often impresses test audiences more than a 4K movie in standard color — I've seen the comparisons live and I'm inclined to agree. Strongly.)

Driving displays

Now it's a year later, though, and Apple has since shipped the A9X-powered 9.7-inch iPad Pro with DCI-P3, and the A10 Fusion powered iPhone 7 with DCI-P3 (even if it still maxes out at 1080p on the Plus side.)

Could Apple put an A9 chipset into a next generation TV box, could A9 — with H.265 HEVC support baked-in — drive a 4K HDR television, and could it do it for $199? If any of that math doesn't work, could Apple do an Apple TV Plus with better specs for $100 to $120 more, and would people with 4K HDR televisions be willing to pay the premium?

I don't know the answers to any of those questions, but I do know I'd love it if Apple figured it all out and launched it as soon as possible.

Putting the K in content

As nice as newer, better hardware would be, it would also need newer, better content to play on it. Netflix and a few other services already scale to 4K when bandwidth allows it, but if Apple announced a 4K Apple TV, they'd also have to announce 4K iTunes.

Hollywood typically disallows upgrades on video content, so we'll most likely have to re-buy the 4K version of anything we already have in HD — and at full price, since Hollywood also hates discounts — but going forward, for new and newly released titles, it would bring iTunes back to the state-of-the-art.

Your Apple TV wish list?

How important are 4K and HDR to you? Would you want them in the next-generation Apple TV?